2. Olympic National Park
3. North Cascades National Park
4. Mount Rainier
5. Mount St Helens National Monument
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park
What a remarkable place. Driving up to the visitor’s center reminded me of the Grand Canyon a bit, much smaller scale of course, with spectacular views of this ancient ravine. Driving down opens up to more incredible views of the lake below with clear waters and gorgeous backdrop of the canyon walls. After seeing pictures of this unique and beautiful place, I decided to stay overnight on my way to Seattle from Spokane. There are both RV and camp sites, some which are more traditional campgrounds with others as part of a large tree shaded parking lot. There’s a cool dirt road trail that’s easy and quite fun to drive, along with a few hiking trails. Great stop over.
These breathtaking towering falls are just outside Snoqualmie’s town center, which in and of itself is a nice visit. I actually learned about this place from a tea barista in Missoula who grew up there funny enough. There are views from both the top and down below along the river. It’s about a quarter mile paved walk down to the lower falls, though I think you can park there as well. It can be a bit steep on the way back up depending on your fitness level, but nothing too crazy. There’s also a hydroelectric plant. Located just outside of Seattle makes it quite accessible and an easy day trip.
I really dug the small artsy hipster town of Olympia. Only about an hour from Seattle, Olympia feels like its younger cousin. Around the Historic District are some great restaurants (Sidewalk Cafe, Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar), awesome tea shops (Encore Chocolates and Teas, Rediviva Tea & Coffee), fun shops, and a fantastic well known farmer’s market. A very walkable city hugging an inlet for all of the folks whose boats reside in the marina. Some blocks are a little grungy in contrast with the nicer areas, but I thought that was part of the charm of this low key city. While you can certainly visit from Seattle, I ended up staying overnight at the Olympia Hotel at Capitol Lake, which was super cool, because I wanted to do some exploring. It’s also a bit cheaper to stay in Olympia and was an hour closer to my next destination Mount Rainier. Be sure to stop by Tumwater Falls while you’re there or on your way out of town. There’s also an Oregon Trail Route Historical Marker right there for you history buffs.
I heard about this place from another traveler while visiting Mammoth Cave National Park. Seems to be a vacation spot for a lot of people in Washington. I’m not big into boating but I love lakes and scenery. This lake is quite large and nestled in the mountains. Great place to get away and relax.
I stumbled upon this neat little Bavarian (German) themed town on a road trip through the state and when I reached Seattle, was told by many people there it was a great town to visit. Wish it hadn’t been pouring as I drove through.
An under the radar city, Spokane is a neat little place. Small city feel, big city amenities. It has its Riverfront Park and hip cafes like Indaba Coffee and Soulful Soups. Revival Tea Company has an above ground tea store and underground speakeasy style tea bar which is awesome. Nice tea, even some non-alcoholic hops based teas on tap. Atticus Coffee & Gifts, Boo Radley’s toy store, and Auntie’s Bookstore are a must. I imagine there is live music around and think I even saw some comedy clubs. For those familiar with the film Benny & Joon, the house where it was filmed is along the river at 301 N Cedar St. It’s a good stopover if you’re looking for a city on the way from Montana or Wyoming (like from Yellowstone) en route to Seattle.
- Weather. While in Seattle it rarely snows much, Washington state as a whole is pretty far north. The farther inland you get, the more mountainous and higher in elevation. So check the weather and for road closures if visiting late fall, winter, or early spring. The Pacific Northwest closer to the coast has the (accurate) reputation of being quite dreary and gray most of the year, though there are of course nice days. Summers are beautiful and pleasant.
- Camping Reservations. In all 3 national parks, campsites are in high demand and fill up months in advance during peak season. Reservations made available in increments to give more people a chance to book. Mark down the dates you want and get on the website ASAP on the reservation day, as sites can fill up in a matter of minutes. Check recreation.gov for reservable sites and when they're available to book.